Rose English, Quadrille, 1975
Rose English

Rose English is an interdisciplinary artist. She began creating and showing her own performances in the 1970's. She wrote, directed and designed these works to include elements from opera, circus and high society events – rare at the time. Works such as Quadrille as well as Berlin (1976) and Mounting (1977) are humorous and exuberant investigations of the constraints of gender norms. She also co-wrote the feminist adventure film The Gold Diggers (1983) with Lindsay Cooper and Sally Potter. She is one of a few women artists who have consistently worked with performance from her early works in 1970's right up to the present day. Her performances include her celebrated solos of the 1980's, including Plato's Chair to her large-scale works of the 1990's including The Double Wedding. In 2006, her piece Ornamental Happiness, a kind of musical circus, opened the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art. In 2009, she performed Flagrant Wisdom in the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, UK. Solo shows were staged at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, and the Camden Art Centre, London, in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Her works featured in the exhibition “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles 2007 and in “Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970’s” at CCCB in Barcelona 2019. Rose English has also worked as an actress, director and dramaturg in theatre, opera, film and on television.

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Six women appear dressed as horses, wearing aprons that cover their upper bodies, leather harnesses, horse tails and hoof high heels. In an outdoor area marked off by horse figurines, the women perform a dance based on dressage, surrounded by the visitors of a horse show. Their movements, made slow and cumbersome by the hoof shoes, fluctuate between absurd beauty and painful constraint. Full of humour, playfulness and criticism, English’s performance highlights the fetishization of women’s bodies.

The performers were Joanna Bartholomew, Sally Cranfield, Helen Crocker, Maedée Duprès, Jacky Lansley and Judith Katz. The performance was a commission for the Southampton Festival of Performance Art.

Courtesy Rose English